Day 1- Vertebrates vs Invertebrates

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SWBAT distinguish between vertebrates and invertebrates.

Big Idea

Students will conduct research on vertebrates and invertebrates to identify structures that help them grow, develop, and survive.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus  

The Ecosystems and Interactions unit focuses on students recognizing the interrelationship between organisms and their ecosystems.  It engages students in understanding that organisms have observable characteristics that are fully inherited and can be affected by the climate and/or environment. Students distinguish structures that define classes of animals and plants, and develop an understanding that all organisms go through predictable life cycles. They learn that organisms depend upon one another for growth and development and discover that plants use the sun's energy to produce food for themselves. They observe how the sun's energy is transferred within a food chain from producers to consumers to decomposers. 

Lesson Synopsis 

In this lesson, Day 1-Vertebrate and Invertebrate Animals, students conduct research on vertebrates and invertebrates. They use chromebooks and pre-selected websites to find out the similarities and differences between them. The information the find is recorded on a matrix chart which is designed to organize the information they find by specific categories. With a completed matrix chart, students apply what they have learned by classifying a variety of animals into either a vertebrate or invertebrate category. Upon completion, students share and justify their thinking outloud. I wrap up the lesson with "I have, Who has.." activity to reinforce the differences between vertebrates and invertebrates. This prepares them for tomorrow's lesson when they do independent research on animals.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will address and support future lessons on the following NGSS Standard(s): 

2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment

5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.  

Why Do I Teach this Lesson and Address This Standard?

I teach the Day 1-Vertebrate and Invertebrate Animals lesson because many of my students have very limited background in science since the elementary school's within my district do not formally teach science prior to my students entering the 5th grade (the middle school); therefore, they have not been exposed to earlier grade level NGSS standards or other previous state standards pertaining to animals, plants, and ecosystems.  I find it important to expose my students to parts of these earlier standards in order for them to truly develop a thorough understanding of how matter moves among organisms and developing models to describe how animals' food was once energy from the sun in future lessons. based investigations and apply their evidence to explain outcomes and phenomenons. Furthermore, providing my students the opportunity to practice this type of discourse will help to facilitate their scientific thinking for future investigations in any lesson.

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering Practices

8.) Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Students research and read a variety of information on student friendly websites about invertebrates and vertebrates. They record characteristics about these types of animals on a matrix chart. This chart helps them distinguish between them. 

Crosscutting Concepts

The Day 1-Vertebrate and Invertebrate Animals lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

6.) Structure and Function: Students research the structures of invertebrates and vertebrates and how these structures support their survival in life.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

LS3.B Variations of Traits


Importance of Modeling to Develop Student

Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This sets up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during an activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.

I model proper use of chromebooks early in the year. At this point in the lesson, students are familiar with expectations when using them.  They understand the responsibility and accountability factors that allow them to use the chromebooks independently.


10 minutes

To begin, I ask students to think back to our Classifying Living Things lesson, where they grouped organisms in a variety of ways.  I explain that today, they are classifying specific kinds of animals.

Vocabulary Preview

I direct students' attention to the words vertebrate and invertebrate written on the board and ask: What do you think these words mean? I ask students to turn and talk with their group. Then I call on groups to share out. As a class, I lead them into defining the words. I write them on the board:

★ vertebrate- organism with a backbone

★ invertebrate- organism without a backbone

Activating Curiosity

At this point, I project classifying animals on the board. I let the video play and have students keep note of the different groups of animals they viewed.  I selected this video to launch off this lesson because it keeps students attention and interest with a variety of animal images and a song related to the circle of life. 

At the end, I have students list groups of animals they saw in the video. As they note these aloud, I write them on the board:

1.) mammal    2.) bird    3.) reptile    4.) amphibian    5.) fish.  

I continue and ask, "Based on our definitions above, do you think these animals are vertebrate or invertebrate?"  I call on students to share aloud. After identifying vertebrate animals, I share with them we will learn about invertebrate animals and more about vertebrate animals through research.


Explore / Explain

25 minutes

Preparing to Investigate

I start by asking a student to read the standards board aloud to focus the class on our purpose for today. "Today we will distinguish between vertebrates and invertebrates by identifying features and characteristics that distinguish them from one another."

Guided Research

I instruct them to retrieve their chromebook to further investigate specific characteristics that distinguish each group of animals.  I hand out a matrix chart and tell students that as we are researching the information about vertebrates and invertebrates, they are recording specific details on this chart.

I point out the vocabulary reference box and characteristics on the left side of the matrix. I have the terms vertebrate and invertebrate that we defined earlier in the lesson. Then I show them two additional terms two terms warm blooded and cold-blooded as they are in the box and go over them. I do this because my students are unfamiliar with these terms and part of their research includes identifying the type of body temperature of an animal.    

  • warm-blooded-keep a constant body temperature no matter the temperature around them

  • cold-blooded- cannot keep a constant temperature; body temperature changes as the temperature of the air or water changes. (Their temperature increase when the air/water temperatures increases and decrease when the air/water temperatures decreases)


I have students go to the website, Kidscorner.  We begin the research together by clicking on mammals. Once everyone is here, I instruct students to read through the information and record the details on their matrix chart. Then, I move their attention to reptiles and continue the same process.  After a few rounds of guiding the students through the task, I notice students are comfortable with the assignment and let them finish it on their own.  In the meantime, as students are researching, I circulate the room and check in with students. I observe key details written within their matrix chart.   

Once students have completed researching vertebrate classes of animals, I move them onto researching invertebrate animals.  I instruct them to use the other side of matrix on the hand out to record characteristics of each group of invertebrates: 

Mollusks    Annelids (Worms)      Arthropods- Arachnids   Arthropods-Insects  Arthropods- Arachnids

For our invertebrate research, I have my students use the websites: Kidport, Barry4kids, Ducksters for information. These websites are more text based and requires reading for information skills. It is important guide students into finding the main ideas and noting the key points on the matrix.

After our research, I bring students back together and I place a completed matrix under the document camera. As we review the details, I have students check their facts for accuracy. I take questions and clarify uncertainties and/or misconceptions.


15 minutes

Animals Classification Sort

I tell students they are receiving a bag containing a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, the words vertebrate and invertebrate, and a definition for each term . I explain their task is to work together and arrange the images into two groups by classifying them as vertebrate or invertebrate.  

While they are sorting and classifying the organisms, I walk around the room checking in and monitoring groups. For the most part, students are very accurate with the way they classified the organisms.  I did notice some students struggles with classifying the snake, snail, and scorpion.  

We reconvene as a whole class and I have each group share out how they arranged their organisms. I look for them to justify their sort. This lets other groups hear how their classmates approached the task. I am looking for students to thinking about physical features and characteristics to help them classify animals as vertebrate or invertebrate.


10 minutes

Reinforcing the Concept

(Need to upload cards)

To reinforce the characteristics that distinguish vertebrate and invertebrate, I wrap up this lesson with the activity "I have..., Who has...?"  

I explain to the students how this activity works. The student with card 1 begins the game by reading the card aloud. For example, card 1 student reads, "I have animal classification, who has keeps body temperature nearly the same at all times?"  The student with the answer to this question on their card would respond, "I have warm-blooded, who has an animal with hair or fur?" ...and so on.

Students must listen to the clues and determine if they have the answer to the question being asked.  It is a great activity to reinforce key terms and concepts with students which is beneficial to English language learners as they develop their academic language by using speaking and listening skills.